When We Surfaced The Boat Was Gone!

Every now and again, a simple day trip turns into an unexpected adventure. Whether this particular adventure was a good one, well, I’ll leave that up to you.

Early on Saturday morning, I met a group of divers at the boat ramp for a double dive just outside the Sydney Harbour heads. Our first stop was Colours Reef; a beautiful site which got it’s name from the abundance and variety of coloured sponges populating the area. It’s a relatively easy site to navigate, thanks to a distinct wall which drops from 22 meters down to 30 meters at the sand.

The skipper dropped a shot line with a buoy on the top of the wall, and my group and I descended down the line to 22 meters. There was another group on the boat who were going to descend shortly after us, with the plan of meeting up on the site 10 minutes later.

After reaching the bottom and getting settled, we dropped down the wall and began our dive. We enjoyed sightings of nudibranchs, starfish, sponges, kingfish, scorpionfish, and so much more. Ten minutes later we looped back to the anchor to see whether the other group had arrived yet. Since they were nowhere to be seen, we continued our dive, following a massive eagle ray along the drop-off.

As we approached our NDLs, we headed back to the anchor and began our ascent up the shot line. The fun started at 15 meters, when we unexpectedly reached the frayed end of the line. Had it snapped? Had it been bitten in two? I peered nervously into the blue hoping not to see anything menacing.

After considering my options, I slowly descended back down the line to retrieve the anchor. Thankfully, it was a smaller anchor and I was able to easily lift it with the help of my BCD. The group and I ascended slowly, pausing for our 5 meter safety stop, which was far less fun thanks to the anchor I was gripping uncomfortably in my hand.

Once our dive computers had cleared, we ascended to the surface where the fun continued. The boat was gone! I did a quick 360, searching in all directions, but I was unable to spot it on the horizon. All I could see, off in the distance, were the vertical cliffs towering up to the eastern suburbs. And we certainly weren’t able to get our there.

I inflated my SMB and held it well above my head, reassuring the group that we were fine. Thankfully, our boat, which wasn’t actually that far away, spotted the SMB and made it’s way over to us. After no more than 5 minutes of floating in the blue, we were back onboard, soon to enjoy a cup of hot soup.

As it turned out, the other group had started to descend down the line, but it had already snapped (or been bitten?), and so they had never made it to the bottom. Instead, they floated for a while under the drifting buoy, and then made their way back to the surface as they realised they had drifted off the site. The skipper had rightfully followed the buoy, and retrieved the second group, before waiting for us to surface and coming to collect us.

Despite the short amount of time we had drifted in the blue, with no boat in site, it was a nerve-racking period. And it certainly amazed me just how difficult it was to spot our boat, despite it being not all that far away. Lesson learned; SMBs are a must, and all divers should carry them. Would the boat have spotted our small heads without one? Perhaps. But why take that chance.

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